Explaining the sprawl and substance of Houston to Northeasterners can be a daunting task. Flinty New Englanders used to small spaces, four seasons, quick transit and those endlessly, arrogantly, winning sports teams tend to equate Houston with the Texas of some 1950s John Wayne movie.
But kudos to Michael Andor Brodeur of the Boston Globe, who set out to capture the full flavor of H-Town for the paper’s spring travel magazine in a piece called “Houston is a food lover’s paradise.” He readily admits he’d only associated the place with “big oil, bigger hair, 10-gallon hats, and 10-lane freeways.”
Then, this crazy thing happened: He married a Texan and started visiting Houston more often — and lo, he has seen the light of what we in the Bayou City already know: Houston’s got it going on.
While his story pays homage to some of the same spots we’ve seen showered with love from the national press (Hotel Zaza, Menil Collection, Chris Shepherd, Hugo’s, the Twilight Epiphany Skyspace), Brodeur does his best to explore the city from end to end, taking readers on a culinary world tour in the process.
Houstonians reading the story might roll their eyes at his surprise over the city’s diversity (duh), but they should keep in mind this story isn’t for them. It’s for Bostonians — and others in the six-state New England region that’s essentially small enough to stretch from the Valley to the Oklahoma border, still leaving ample room for Houston, the beaches, the Piney Woods, Marfa, and well, most of Texas, actually — who’ve never given the Lone Star State a second thought as a vacation spot.
And he does a more than credible job pointing would-be visitors to places that stretch across Houston’s urban sprawl. The newly renovated Lancaster Hotel gets a nod as the perfect spot for theater-loving visitors (as does a shout-out to Houston Grand Opera’s spring rep duo of Don Giovanni and The Phoenix, playing in April and May). He offers up an explanation of that beloved Texas pastry, the kolache (a thing apparently so uncommon in New England that just a couple weeks ago, a City Data chat board had a thread about where a Texas transplant could find some), calling out Weikel’s and Hruska’s. There’s even a mention of the boudin kolache at Christy’s over in Montrose. Baby Barnaby’s, the Breakfast Klub, and the “opulent” buffet at Hugo’s all land breakfast or brunch mentions.
Brodeur sends travelers outside The Loop for lunch options, suggesting Taqueria Las Glorias on Long Point for its “life-changing” tacos al pastor. There’s also love for Cocina Latina Pupusa Buffet over in Gulfton, the Long Point-based Pollos y Carnes Asadas El Norteño food truck, Vieng Thai, and Korea Garden’s kimchi pancake and spicy stew. It’d be crazy not to mention Houston’s barbecue scene, and the Globe handles this with mentions for Goode Company and The Pit Room.
In fact, Houston foodies should dig the idea that this Boston guy with Texas ties worked so hard to fit in so much of the city’s epic cuisine scene. Frenchy’s, Turkey Leg Hut, Nancy’s Hustle, Theodore Rex, the Original Ninfa’s on Navigation, Fung’s Kitchen, Crawfish & Noodles, and Connie’s Seafood, among several others, provide not only a blueprint for vacationers to eat their weight in Houston hospitality, but also a list for Bayou City dwellers themselves to check out.
With a nod to spring travel season, the story offers up an invitation to see one of Houston’s beloved traditions, the Art Car Parade, but there’s also a recommendation for a smaller event that’s fun on a different level, the Houston Dragon Boat Festival.
In all, Brodeur realizes the Texas-size insanity of trying to explain Houston to the outside world, and underlines the truism that you really have to experience it to believe it. Houstonians should love that. They’ll be a little less enamored with his slight dig at our beloved Astros, though.